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Escalation Clause: An Overview

How Does an Escalation Clause Work?

Despite rising mortgage rates and little availability, the real estate market is still red hot, and purchasers regularly find themselves in a bidding war for a residence. Potential homeowners might rest easier by including an escalation clause in their bid. 

Raising your bid gradually as others do could help you secure the house. If you insist on going this road, though, it’s prudent to be wary and aware of the repercussions.

What Exactly Is an Escalation Clause?

A purchase bid with an escalation clause specifies that, should another bid be made on the property, your bid price will increase by a specified sum, up to a maximum that you establish. An escalation clause allows you to automatically increase your bid, giving you a chance to outbid the other bidder without going over your set spending limit.

When another bidder makes a bid that is equal to or higher than the original, the clause kicks in. There is an automatic increase to the bid made by the escalation clause whenever a counterbid is made. The highest sum the bidder can bid may be capped in some way.

How Does an Escalation Clause Work?

The following are some of the most important elements that make up an escalation clause:

  • What was the initial cost of the acquisition?
  • To what extent will this price be higher than a bid made by a competitor?
  • In the event that there are many bids, what is the highest viable buying price?

It’s also worth noting that if a bidder’s bid is approved, a condition will specify the total sum they’ll pay in installments.

Both the bidder’s and dealer’s real estate agents should be in on the conversation regarding any escalation clauses or bids. When the dealer obtains evidence that another bidder has made a legitimate bid, the escalation provision in the contract is activated. If this is the case, then the bid is genuine and binding. A dealer is essentially unable to come up with a different bid.

When including an escalation clause in the bid, both the bidder and the bidder’s real estate agent need to have a comprehensive understanding of what they are doing. It is advisable to get the advice of an expert who specializes in real estate law in order to make certain that both parties have a complete comprehension of the ramifications of this legally binding agreement.

Example of an Escalation Clause

A good example of an escalation clause is needed because they tend to be confusing:

Let’s say a prospective bidder proposes a price of $500,000. If they want to outbid other potential bidders, they might put an “escalation clause” in their bid specifying the highest sum they are prepared to pay. 

To illustrate, suppose the bidder has an escalation clause that states they will pay $30,000 over the highest bid up to a total of $530,000. 

In the event that another bidder submits a higher bid than the initial one, say $530,000, the escalation clause would allow the original bid to win. The difference of $30,000 between the bidder’s first bid and the higher bid has been accounted for in the new bid of $560,000.

Escalation Clause: Pros and Cons


There are several potential merits to including an escalation provision in a contract, including the following:

  1. The purchasers can have a greater sense of calm regarding their bid. Purchasing a residence is already a difficult endeavor; add to that the prospect of making a proposal on a residence that you truly desire and then living with the continual anxiety of wondering if another bidder has presented a better counterbid. 

    When purchasing a residence, utilizing an escalation clause will not only give you more assurance but also ensure that you remain within the financial boundaries that you have established in advance.
  1. When a bidder includes an escalation clause in their bid, it can make the dealer more interested in the bidder’s proposal. Escalation provisions demonstrate to the dealer that the bidder has a significant level of interest in the property. They could take the clause into consideration while selecting which bid to accept.
  1. The purchaser does not pay an excessive sum for the property. You don’t want to overpay for a house if you can help it; that’s just good business. You can be protected from paying more money than is required by an escalation clause. 

    This will ensure that your bid is approved. This is due to the fact that the value of your bid will only improve if another bidder submits a better bid.


Escalation clauses, despite the fact that they have their perks, can have certain negatives, which may include the following:

  1. When an escalation provision is agreed upon, the parties no longer have the option to negotiate the price. Because a clause discloses the utmost sum that a bidder is eager to spend, the dealer will immediately be aware of the highest bid that they have received. 

    Because of this, there is no longer any room for negotiation. It’s viable that the “cap” will take away the bidder’s ability to negotiate. A dealer may choose to forego the escalation clause in favor of requesting the highest viable bid.
  1. When a dealer agrees to the terms of an escalation clause, they forfeit the right to make counterbids to any other prospective bidders. As a result of the possibility that bidders may not submit their best viable bid that includes an escalation clause, dealers may immediately turn down the bid.
  1. When a bidder’s bid is higher than the residence’s appraised worth, escalation clauses can create complications in the appraisal process. Lenders have stringent requirements when it comes to the sum of money they will loan for a residence. 

    Lenders demand an appraisal to establish the residence’s current market value before extending credit, and they won’t lend more than this sum. There is a possibility that the price that is being bided will become excessively high and end up being higher than the value that was placed on the residence by the appraiser. 

    A bidder can win the bidding war, only to find out later that the lender won’t provide them enough money to pay for the residence they just bought. If the bidder wants to proceed with the purchase of the residence despite this obstacle, they will be required to pay the difference in cash.

Is Using an Escalation Clause a Good Idea?

In a dealer’s market, escalation clauses might be extremely useful. If residences are moving quickly off the market, you will need something that can assist your bid to stand out in a crowded marketplace and send a message to dealers that you are serious about doing business with them. 

As a result, the situation of a bidding war is the one in which you would benefit most from utilizing an escalation clause. Remember that escalation provisions are not flawless and might not be appropriate in your specific circumstance. Therefore, it is a good idea to discuss this possibility with your real estate agent. 

You should also assess how much you are truly ready to devote to a residence before getting involved in a bidding war. This will prevent you from feeling any regret after the fact if you end up paying more than you intended for the house.

When Does an Escalation Clause Make Sense?

Although escalation clauses are sometimes helpful tools in the real estate industry, this does not mean that they are appropriate for every circumstance. Consider utilizing an escalation clause in situations such as:

  • Multiple bids are commonplace due to the favorable market conditions for dealers. An escalation clause is useful if a bidding battle seems likely, as it prevents you from getting carried away and giving more than you can afford. 

    Keeping emotions out of the decision-making process is made easier by deciding on the increments and the cap in advance of what you feel most comfortable with.
  • You’ve finally located the residence of your dreams, and you don’t want to let it slip away. The inclusion of an escalation provision in the contract is one way to help establish your dedication to buying the residence.
  • You are interested in accelerating the procedure of the negotiation. Escalation clauses streamline the buying and selling of real estate by eliminating the need for back-and-forth negotiations between bidders, dealers, and their agents.

Because of an escalation clause, prospective bidders may end up biding more money than the residence is actually worth. This can be a deal-breaker for the bidder because most banks will not extend mortgage loans for a sum that is higher than the residence’s appraised worth.

There are certain vendors who will not consider bids that include an escalation clause. Escalation clauses enable purchasers to begin the bidding process with a modest bid and only increase it if additional bids are received. If the dealers want to receive a higher price, they could prefer it if the bidders made their best bid right from the start of the negotiation.

It is critical to bear in mind that the goal of certain vendors is not necessarily to obtain the best viable selling price. A dealer whose employer has sent him out of state, for example, may favor a rapid closure above a higher price in order to minimize the sum of time he or she spends in the state. 

It’s viable that some dealers would prefer bids that don’t have any conditions attached to them in order to simplify the sale. It’s viable that a cash bid of $280,000 that can close quickly would be preferred over a loaned bid of $300,000.

Bottom Line

You should talk to a real estate agent about the nuances of inserting an escalation clause in your bid if you’re thinking about doing so. It is imperative that you work with a real estate agent who is well-versed in these provisions to guarantee a smooth house purchase.

When determining whether or not to include an escalation provision in your bid, you should be aware of the potential consequences. The best method to find the house of your dreams is to talk through the advantages and disadvantages with a knowledgeable agent.

Consider including an escalation clause in your bid to prove to the dealers that you are truly interested in purchasing their residence. You can also strengthen your bid by bringing a copy of your preapproval letter to the table.

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